The Cross 5

Luke 24:9-12

I can think of oh, so many times when, as a parent, I have listened to a story or explanation that one of our children has offered and been utterly confused by it. How did that stain get there? What happened to your coat? Where did you leave your backpack? Frequently we have the story repeated to us several times, and even then I am left baffled as to what actually happened.

Sometimes the information we are given is so unbelievable, so astounding, that we are confused by it all.

On that first Easter morning, when Jesus rose from the tomb, the celebration of the resurrection had not begun. The first reaction to the event was confusion and amazement.

How did the disciples react to the report the women gave? What did Peter do? How did he react after seeing the tomb with his own eyes?

Those closest to Jesus were presented with the miracle of a risen Lord, and they weren’t sure what to do with that information. They were presented with an empty tomb, and they weren’t sure how to react to that.

The women probably came back so amazed that what they were saying was just a jumble to those who heard. But even when Peter sees the tomb himself his reaction is not the joy we might expect. He wonders what happened.

Before we judge too harshly those who were witness to this resurrection, let us remember that all of us are presented with an empty cross and an empty tomb, yet so few know what that means. The fact that Jesus died for us, the fact that he rose again, should be evidence enough that we are to obey the teachings of Christ. We are called to live as Jesus did because Jesus is our Lord and Savior – demonstrated through the crucifixion and resurrection.

Yet, so many people continue to live as if what happened is not important. They fail to allow the miracle of the resurrection to change their lives.

The empty cross and empty tomb give us a choice. We can continue in our sinful life, or we can choose to follow Christ.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How will you respond to the risen Christ?

The Cross 4

Romans 6:21-23

Many years ago we were riding in the car with my mother when we got lost. She had apparently made a wrong turn, but instead of stopping immediately she tried to find her way by making more and more turns. It wasn’t long before we were in a neighborhood we would rather have avoided.

When we find ourselves in desperate situations, times when things seem hopeless, we can look at the decisions that brought us to that place. Few decisions cause complete destruction all by themselves. What is most common is for a person to make a series of wrong decisions, each one taking the person further and further from where they need to be.

Every day, every moment, it would seem, is an opportunity to make a choice. Will we do this or do that? Which is beneficial? Which will cause harm?
Paul addresses this in his comments about how to live life. What does he point out in verse 21? What happens when we become slaves to God? What comparison is made between sin and life in Christ?

The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross was made so that we might be free of sin. Paul points out the ironic truth of our faith – if we become “slaves,” but we are slaves to God, then we actually are set free from the troubles and heartache sin can cause. If we remain in our old lives, living the way we always have, making the same wrong decisions we have day after day, we are heading in the wrong direction. By clinging to our selfish and sinful attitudes we are moving closer and closer to our own spiritual death.

To gain new life, to be set free from the bonds of sin, to find true peace of mind, we must turn to Jesus and accept his sacrifice. With that we must also accept the resurrection, seeing it as a sign to us of the new life we can have by obeying the Lord’s commands and living as Jesus did.

Paul keeps it simple. The wages of sin is death. If we continue to commit sin and do the wrong things we are faced with our own spiritual death.

If we can turn to Christ and decide to live a holy life, resisting the temptation to do what is wrong, we can find a new life in our Lord.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What can you do to become a slave for God?

The Cross 3

1 John 2:3-6

Years ago while working as a consultant we brought in a new employee, Connie, to work on our team. I sat down with Connie and very quickly showed her what we did. When I asked if she understood she said she did, but then she went to another team member and asked for instructions. Later, she came back to me to get the instructions all over again.

Connie had lied in her response. She was embarrassed to admit that she did not understand what we were doing, and so pretended she did understand.

As we remember and celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior it is essential that we understand what we are all about and what we believe. This passage from 1 John explains how we can demonstrate that we do indeed understand what being a Christian is all about. How do we demonstrate that we have come to know Jesus? What happens when we obey the words of Christ? What must we do?

That final verse really sums up our attitude about being a true believer in Jesus. If we are to accept Christ as Savior, if we are to claim Jesus as our Lord, then we must walk as Jesus did.

And what does that mean? It means we must be humble in our attitude. We must have a giving heart that is willing to sacrifice for others and for God. It means we must live a life that is holy and good.

We cannot say that we believe in Jesus Christ and that we believe in the resurrection if we are going to continue living in the old life. We cannot claim Christ as our Lord if we are going to willfully do that which is sinful and wrong.

Easter is more than a time of celebration, and more than a time when we receive the salvation of Jesus. It is a time when we must decide to live truthfully, genuinely seeking to do God’s will in this world. To claim we understand what Jesus and the resurrection is all about and then continue to sin is to make Jesus out to be a liar.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How do you walk as Jesus did?

The Cross 2

1 John 1:5-7

When we go to a local restaurant our children like to take the chocolate mints we get after the dinner, eat the chocolate, and then re-form the wrappers so they appear to contain the candy. By appearance they seem like a great little treat, but in reality there is nothing there.

This message from John stresses how we are to live and act when we accept the death and resurrection of Jesus. Simply knowing that Jesus rose from the dead does not make us who we should be. Where did John get the message? What is the message? What is the difference between walking in the light and walking in the dark?

As the years pass I am more and more convinced that the title we give ourselves – “Christians” – means nothing if we do not live as Christians. The term “church” means nothing if we do not act as a church. If we are to claim Jesus as Savior, if we are to believe that Christ rose from the dead, and that through his sacrifice and resurrection we are given a new life, then we must live as if we believe it. Living a sinful life while claiming to believe in Jesus is as much of a falsehood as the empty chocolate wrappers.

In God and in His Son Jesus is no darkness. There is no evil or sin. There is only light – goodness, kindness, compassion. There is only honesty and goodness – that is, doing what is right and beneficial to others.

If we claim Christ as Savior, if we truly believe in the resurrection, then we are called to live as people who believe these things. We are called to avoid sin, to strive to live as holy people. We know what is right and what is wrong. It is up to us to embrace the right and shun the wrong. If we continue to knowingly and deliberately commit sin we lie and we do not have the fellowship with God that we should.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What can you do to be certain you walk in the light?

The Cross 1

Colossians 2:9-12

Peggy has been working diligently the past several days to restore what has been lost in our most recent setback – the computer virus we experienced on April 1. Little by little she is rebuilding what we had, taking it back to where it was and where it should be. It requires a great deal of effort and time on her part.

But as she works I see a parallel to the Easter story. We had a dead computer, so disrupted by the virus that we were about to purchase a replacement. But now what was dead has been brought back and is functioning. And that is the story of Easter.

Jesus was dead. His followers were struggling with their need to move on. And then they found that he was resurrected; Jesus was raised from the dead. And in that time of realization these followers needed to accept and believe what is professed here in Colossians.

How is Jesus connected to God, the Father? What have we received? How are we “raised” now, before our deaths?

Part of the meaning of Easter is that we are promised a victory over mortal death. As Christ was physically deceased and was given a new life, so we can also expect our physical body to die. But then we will receive an eternal existence with God.

When the words of Colossians are true in our hearts then we need not wait until our own deaths to experience a resurrection of sorts. If we can truly accept and believe the sacrifice, death and resurrection of Jesus, then we believe that the fullness of God exists in Christ, the Son. We are resurrected from our old life into a new life of belief and faith.

And when we believe then we are committed to God, not through a physical circumcision reminding us of our covenant with God, but with a spiritual circumcision – a spiritual covenant.

Our baptism was a reminder that we are dead to our old lives and born anew in Jesus. Knowing this, we are called to live a life in the fullness of Jesus, a life that demonstrates our faith and belief in what Jesus has done. A life in the fullness of Jesus is a life that shows everyone we believe and accept the resurrection of Jesus.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How do you demonstrate your faith in the resurrection?